Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 18. by Richard Walker

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Chapter 18.

The first ghostly shades of purple and rose marked the low-hanging clouds that hid the eastern horizon. The light rose until their edges were limned with copper fire that steadily brightened until they looked like knife blades of flaming gold. It was the start of a new day, one eagerly anticipated by all the kingdom since the first thaws of spring. The whole world seemed to stir with fitful eagerness, the ringing of the chapel and cathedral bells all over town marking the daily ritual of the monks and priests performing the Prime office of religion, their sacred calling. Fallominster had precedence over all others, their bells rang first, longest, and most ornately across the city where the sovereign rested. Despite the fête, the sacred world turned ever on. Those of the cloth received no days off, no holidays from their sacred duties.
All over the city of Fallond, the servants rose first, and all the lesser folk who must make do for themselves along with them. The maidservants and housewives wended their ways to the nearest water, wells, aqueducts, fountains or streams, still yawning. They filled their jugs and buckets, swapping talk with their kin and neighbors, and maybe indulging in a quick splash of water themselves to wake up before lugging their wet burdens sloshing home again. The wells, fountains, and country streams and the roads and paths serving them were very busy of mornings with the people drawing water for the morning work at home, and moreso this morning for the holiday. Everyone wanted to look their very best today, so bathing was a must.
The members of the merchant class rose and prepared for what promised to be a more than profitable second day for the showing of their wares, if history were to repeat itself, which it commonly did on this day. Soldiers rose with the morning bells to relieve the night watch at the towers and all along the walls of the great city and in the castles within and all around it, and all over the kingdom for that matter, while the people of the night, the padfoots, knaves, and sneak-thieves and all those of ill-repute, slunk through the early morning shadows back to their scattered holes to hide.


A scabrous yet unremarkable old man in poor but common clothing stood leaning on a walking stick of a dark and twisted wood in the mouth of a deeply shadowed alley on the far side of the square before the north gate that pierced the pale buttery stone walls of the faire grounds. His wretched and scraggly hair stood awry from lack of care, looking for all the world like any of a thousand of the other poor to be found in the city streets of fair Fallond.
A dirt-smudged, rag-wrapped street urchin cowered on the muddy cobblestones before him, looking like some dirty animal lurking where the shadows were deepest. The filthy, almost faceless urchin didn’t seem to have a name, as far as the old man knew, only the usual moniker such as his street folk often favored. This one was ‘Spider’, and had a reputation for being able to get into anywhere, unseen, and often brought the most interesting news.

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